what is going on with black men in the military? On Wednesday, the Army filed charges against its top enlisted man, Army Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney, for allegedly committing adultery, demanding sex during a business trip and obstructing justice. The previous day, Staff Sgt. Delmar Simpson, one of 12 accused black Army trainers at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, was convicted of rape and other sexual offenses against enlisted women. Simpson was sentenced to 25 years in prison, about the same as for an average civilian homicide.
But for some, his punishment wasn't enough. "This doesn't seem to be terribly severe," said Georgia Sadler, founder of Women in the Military Information Network. Karen Johnson, a former Air Force colonel and a vice president of the National Organization for Women, agreed. The sentence, she said "sends a message to women in the military that the talk of zero tolerance is just talk." Maybe they should bring back the rope.
What did Simpson, convicted on 18 counts of rape, do? He didn't actually rape the women trainees, at least not in the civilian sense of the term. He may have used his rank as a coercive tool, but his acts did not involve violence. Even feminist lawyers have admitted that if committed in the non-military world, Simpson's crimes would amount at best to sexual harassment -- and no one has yet suggested 25-year terms for sexual harassment. But under the military code, rape occurs if the woman feels she had no choice, even if no physical force is present. One of Simpson's victims said he "ordered" her to have sex with him. Another said she had been raped by Simpson on eight different occasions, yet had taken a shower at his quarters afterwards, while he went to sleep. Under the influence of its postmodern feminist advisors, the Army calls such situations "constructive rape."
In fact, consensual sex among the ranks was so common at the Aberdeen Proving Ground that it seemed to be closer in spirit to "Animal House" than the virtuous U.S. Army. Yet none of the women reported "rape" until after the military investigators moved in. Explaining this under oath, the women testified that they were too proud, too embarrassed or too frightened to make an accusation. If they had complained, they said, no one would believe them. Is this plausible in the post-Anita Hill, post-Paula Coughlin world? Would it not be more likely for them to think that making the accusations would land them a photo-op at Newsweek or a docudrama by Disney?
On the other hand, if they had indeed been having consensual sex with the officers, the prospects they were facing were not attractive. Consensual sex between officers and enlisted is forbidden in the military. An investigator coming upon such facts can confront a female recruit with the choice of becoming a "victim" by claiming rape, or going to prison and getting a dishonorable discharge. Five of the women who originally reported being raped at Aberdeen have already publicly recanted their stories, claiming that investigators threatened them in precisely this manner and pressured them into testifying against the officers.
In fact, the Army itself admits that fully 40 percent of the female "victims" at Aberdeen had consensual sex or were having personal relationships (also a violation of regulations) with the accused sergeants. Significantly, the Army has not punished any of the women for these violations, lending fuel to the suspicion that this is just another anti-male witch hunt similar to the Navy precedent at Tailhook (where none of the consenting female officers were prosecuted either).
Classmates of two of the white recruits who told the military court that Delmar Simpson had raped them, testified that the alleged victims had previously said they wanted to have sex with him. One was in the habit of walking past the drill sergeant's office wearing "little short shorts" and skimpy tops. Pfc. Carnesia Jones told the court that one of Simpson's accusers "hated him ... She said that black (expletive) is going to get exactly what he deserves."
The secretary of the Army now has a feminist advisor (on contract from Duke Law School) to tell him that the military culture has to be changed. In place of the "masculinist" influences that are "rape-conducive," the Army must create an "ungendered vision," and teach male and female dogfaces to live as a "band of brothers and sisters." Thus the utopian visions of the '60s have finally invaded the military and apparently conquered its leaders. The head of the Army is on record proclaiming it his mission to "desexualize" the military. The result of such attitudes is the travesty at Aberdeen.
When rape is "constructed" first by feminist theorists and then by military bureaucrats, the results are bound to be Orwellian. This is a tragedy for Sgt. Simpson and the other black soldiers who have found themselves in a judicial environment eerily similar to the Southern courts before which black males were hauled a generation ago, where the rules seemed calculated to convict them. The NAACP and other civil rights organizations who have protested the Aberdeen charges have every right to believe that there is a racial witch hunt in the making. And like every witch hunt, the appetite for transgressors grows, as Army Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney -- whose alleged crime appears to have been making a clumsy pass at a female officer during a business trip to Hawaii -- is about to find out.
This is an ominous development for the nation itself, and not just in terms of racial relations. As Sgt. Simpson's attorney, Frank Spinner, put it: "What this really comes down to is that any woman can come in and say she had sex with a drill sergeant and was raped. Discipline in the Army is going to break down -- if it hasn't already broken down -- because who has the power now? The drill sergeant or the trainee?"
Somewhere out there, Saddam Hussein and other potential adversaries are surely taking note.